This doesn’t ring true to me. The smartest people I know are some of the least concerned with extrinsic validation.
Sure, some possess the good habit of goal-setting, but said goals are just as often, if not more often, personal growth goals, as goals that are measured by some external metric (i.e. a raise or “Regional Salesman of the Year” award).
In addition, I think there’s some conflation here between “smart” and “successful”. ‘Outliers‘ has a great chapter on the “Termites” study and how IQ is not a reliable predictor for professional or financial success in life.
I can think of 50 alternate reasons that smart people would be less satisfied with life, but it’s possible (likely?) that the disconnect between intellectual ability and performance/success could be a source of distress, in and of itself.
“If I’m so damn smart, why am I not equally successful???”